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“Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, “Addams Family Values”, “Home for Vacation”

Thanksgiving was never a holiday that I celebrated with my family with great enthusiasm. As with other Western holidays, my parents, Taiwanese immigrants, never really understood their vibe, so most of our celebrations were for the benefit of increasingly shy children. Most of the time I thought of it as a rare day off for my independent parents and a weekend when my friends weren’t available, leaving me to sit in my room and watch the parades and i love lucy TV marathons. However, we went to see Star Trek movies over the Thanksgiving holiday; issues 6-10 were released at this festive time of year after finding success with Star Trek IV: The Journey Home. According to Thanksgiving traditions, it wasn’t the worst.

Left to my own devices, I made it a ritual to watch Planes, trains and automobiles from my growing collection of pirated VHS tapes, possibly adding Addams Family Values then Jodie Foster Home for the holidays to my post-dinner, post-football, post-nap marathon. They became my portal to the holidays, carrying with them a certain sentiment, no doubt, but a payload of cynicism, self-criticism and the first stirrings of my budding social consciousness around issues of political divisions, inequity of class and whitewashing historical atrocities. . These films are not only conventionally entertaining, but in many ways represent the platform of opposition to our culture-imposed self-help mythology Manifest Destiny.

Start with John Hughes’ masterpiece of loneliness, prejudice, tolerance and grace, Planes, trains and automobiles. A highly anticipated and high-profile collaboration between Steve Martin and John Candy, it opens with Neal, Martin’s ad-exec who, late for a flight home for the holidays, bribes another commuter for his taxi before getting poach. by shower curtain ring seller Del (Candy). It’s the first in a series of lessons Neal will learn about the relative uselessness of money in getting him where he wants to be, in contrast to an essentially penniless Del, using everyone’s empathy and the ingenuity of the poor to make their way through the world. . The film is a contrast between Neal’s and Del’s approach to problems, setting up a series of truly impactful resolutions about gratitude and the importance of living in the moment in a temporary world. Every time I watch it, I feel it differently. I went from hating Del’s heaviness, lack of physical grace and social acumen, to hating Neal’s disdain for others and privileged solipsism. Del is present in the world and able to negotiate disagreements with grace, as he has neither the social power nor the financial resources to resolve them in any other way. Money and power relieved Neal of the need to solve his problems other than through money. Del, in particular, melts Neal’s credit cards. It’s an accident, of course, the unfortunate result of a series of unfortunate events, but as an attack on the acquisition culture of the “me generation”, it’s a metaphor as vivid as fetishism. business cards from American psycho. It takes a few days of frustration and rage for Neal to realize how much he has everything he ever wanted. It takes someone like Del, in fact, to remind Neal how short life is; too short to spend it in a state of perpetual agitation.

PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, Steve Martin, John Candy, 1987, (c)Paramount/courtesy Everett Collec
Photo: Everett Collection

I started working in my parents’ stores, full time in the summer, when I was 12 for a quarter of an hour. I was raised as so many of my generation were raised, on the truth that the key to success was a job with a title and degree from an accredited university – one presumably flowing from the other. Home ownership, a savings account, a key office. This is all a lie. I’ve had these things and none of them have made me happier, just in debt and in a state of what seems like constant self-loathing. I don’t think you come to the end of your life wishing you had worked more, that you had littered your spaces with more trash. I always cried at the end Planes, trains and automobiles when Neal stops being such a jerk and invites Del to spend Thanksgiving with him and his beautiful family, but I still haven’t known why. Far from being cheap, it is an essential truth: the world is a cruel test interspersed with flashes of grace. Add to the grace because there are so few.

by Barry Sonnenfeld Addams Family Values tells the same lesson in a slightly more absurd way, centering his family of socially unacceptable but devoted and loving misfits as they do battle with a cold, opportunistic agent of materialism. Debbie, played by the incomparable Joan Cusack, is a serial killer – a “black widow” who marries wealthy men and then murders them for inheritance. She sets her sights on Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd), breaking up the Addams by tackling their fears for their children Wednesday and Pugsley (Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman), and toddler Pubert (Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper) , leading to a moment when she tries to electrocute them only to find herself reduced to a pile of ash, the deadly strain sparing only her expensive pumps and credit cards. The Addams have it all. Money and possessions mean nothing to them. Debbie thinks money will make her happy, but it just makes her lonely and dead. The centerpiece of the image takes place at a camp Wednesday and Pugsley have been sent to and where they are immediately intimidated by the trust fund kids who run the place. At a Thanksgiving show where Wednesday was interpreted as “Pocahantas” in a fine example of how rich liberals do terrible damage when they congratulate each other on their progressiveness, she stages an uprising that ends in the destruction of the entire seal. She literally burns everything. It’s a brilliant, subversive movie that’s yet again about the zero-sum payoff of “stuff” over nurturing relationships with the people you love. Of all things, it’s a movie about not taking things for granted and it’s, again, a key Thanksgiving image.


End the night with the provocative humanism of Jodie Foster Home for the holidays, an uncomfortable comedy in which Claudia (Holly Hunter), the museum’s junior curator, is fired just before returning home to spend a few chaotic days with her weird but no stranger-than-your-family family. It’s easy to turn a movie like this into something mean and shrill – into a picture like Christmas holidays for example, which I like but not because he doesn’t make fun of his characters. It doesn’t do that. Home for the holidays loves Claudia’s parents, Henry (Charles Durning) and Adele (Anne Bancroft). Watch how long it takes to watch him spin her into a little impromptu dance in their living room – or later when Adele strips off her dress in her daughter’s bedroom getting ready for bed, and looks at herself in the mirror and all the things that age has deepened and improved upon, rather than taking away or ruining in some way. He loves Claudia’s brother Tommy (Robert Downey, Jr.) who brings home a new boyfriend Leo (Dylan McDermott), and acts obnoxious in an effort to make his parents (whom he loves and who love me back) may recognize his homosexuality. . He likes Dotted Aunt Glady (Geraldine Chaplin) who, over Thanksgiving dinner, tells the story of a Christmas Eve when she kissed Henry and felt young and beautiful, wanted and alive, and how that memory l ‘has maintained for all these decades of her. otherwise disappointing life. He even likes to disapprove of his sister Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson), who is married to Walter (Steve Guttenberg), with adorable little rude and spoiled children. In another movie she would be the subject of easy ridicule and when she has a turkey in her lap and acts badly about it it seems like the movie takes the easy route but then she gets a quiet note where it’s clear that this is how she handles the responsibility of being one of the kids who didn’t stray too far from the expected average. Everyone is under pressure to play a role in a family. The enforced intimacy of vacation gatherings is where the cracks start to show.

He never feels mean Home for the holidays, it feels like very different real people are connected by the circumstances of their birth. “Are you okay? You look good,” Claudia tells her mother. “It’s all relative,” says Adele. There’s so much warmth and non-judgmental wisdom in this image: a portrait imperfection and sadness, disappointment and regret, it’s in the end about how your loved ones are where you store your hope, no matter how unfit they might be to be custodians of it. It’s a beautiful film. Foster has an exquisite eye for moments of connection – the little things you’ll always hold close to your heart after the hurricane passes. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for WD Richter’s brilliant script who offers non-sequences to uncomfortable questions exactly as people will when trying to distract themselves from topics that are too emotional to address directly.”You’re not really going to sell the house, are you, Dad Claudia asks. “Do you want beer? Wings? And the money? he says. “Sure, I I’m going to have a beer.” And they toast to the football game on television.

That’s pretty much the way my dad talked until the day he died, taking with him all the unsaid things between us that we tried to address through talks about sports and business. A large part of the family is made up of objects engaged in collision avoidance. And then they left and you wish you had crashed. I remember late nights bringing people home like those from Home for the holidays, quiet, stealthy conversations in warm environments full of good smells and the fatigue that comes from eating and performing the version of yourself you’re meant to be for an audience of people who know who you really are. It’s a special kind of exhaustion to be stripped of the lies that keep you going for hours and days. If you haven’t seen Home for the holidaysyou should.

Walter Chaw is the senior film critic for His book on the films of Walter Hill, with an introduction by James Ellroy, is now available for pre-order. His monograph for the 1988 film MIRACLE MILE is available now.

New York Post

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